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Published: Friday, 4/12/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

UPTOWN

Park in works to add splash of green to neighborhood

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A new green space, with an emphasis on promoting sustainable recreation in an up-and-coming Toledo neighborhood, is on its way.

The park recently named UpTown Green and bounded by 18th Street, Madison Avenue, Laburnum Lane, and 20th Street, is slated to open at the end of this year.

The Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to change zoning of some of the property from office commercial space to parks and open space.

The project, a collaboration between the UpTown Association and the city of Toledo, will involve transforming about 2.5 acres into an environmentally friendly park. The green space is expected to include a splash pad, walking paths, a performance area, and several natural enhancements, such as a bioswale and native plants. A bioswale is an alternative to storm sewers that will help improve storm-water quality.

Additional water conservation elements will also be used.

“We’re looking to install a cistern,” said Julie Champa, executive director of the UpTown Association, said. “We anticipate being able to utilize storm water that comes off of the roof.”

The performance area will also include a backdrop for outside film projection, in addition to athletic areas for such games as disc golf.

Funding from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund in the amount of a $1.5 million grant, is helping the project get off the ground. The grant pays for asbestos surveys, environmental assessments, removal of contaminated soil and groundwater, and other remediation projects. While the space will focus on nature conservation, it is also expected to create a safe and accessible link from Mercy College to downtown.

Ms. Champa said the project has the potential to affect the community in several ways. “We do anticipate that it will spawn further economic development in and around that area,” she said. “We looked at this area and it was just a perfect fit for us.”

Mannik & Smith Group is designing and engineering the park, which has been in the planning stages for a few years.

“We’ve been working for the past two years, in putting together amenities that we think are going to be beneficial to the neighborhood,” Ms. Champa said. That has included the hosting of community forums, where residents told the association what they wanted to see most of the property.

It is anticipated that ground will be broken in late May. A tentative completion is scheduled for the end of the year, she said, although she said the date could change depending on construction schedules. Trees and perennials will be planted in 2014.

In addition to bringing major investment to the neighborhood, the park is also aimed at bringing the UpTown district out of the shadows.

“I think it’s an exciting project,” Catherine G. Hoolahan, vice chair of the plan commission, said during the meeting.

A second phase of the project includes fixing up an existing nearby building that could house restaurants and other retail facilities. Ms. Champa said while grant funding will pay for the park, the UpTown Association will be responsible for raising money for the building at 1810 Madison Ave. The now-vacant four-story building was used for commercial office space.

While the park is the first priority, Ms. Champa hopes the building can eventually be used for creative endeavors, like art performances and gallery space. The building, built in 1950, has space for about 30 offices or studios.

“We are going to be actively looking for developers — anyone who is interested in possibly leasing space in the building. It’s a terrific building,” she said.

The association plans to work on the building, in conjunction with park construction. The association is also planning a fund-raising campaign.

But some remediation work will have to be done over the course of the next few months to get the land ready.

“We’ve already done some cleanup,” Ms. Champa said. “It is a brownfield site. The next phase will further clean up.”

Brownfield sites are typically abandoned parcels of property where developing new space or business is hampered by environmental contamination. Remediation of contaminated soils, in addition to asbestos removal and demolishing two buildings, is included in part of the Clean Ohio grant.

Joel Mazur, senior environmental specialist for Toledo, was unable to be reached for comment on the site.

At the heart of the project, though, is a commitment to building community, even in the surrounding area, Ms. Champa said.

“There are other portions of the neighborhood that we would like to see grow as well,” she said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-206-0356, or on Twitter at @KMcBlade.



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